If You Goal is to Improve General Health and Fitness

If you are training for overall aka general fitness, meaning you want to get stronger, drop a bit of fat, stay lean and release stress, there is no strict rules on how to structure your training routine. If you have no desire to compete in powerlifting why work up to a massive deadlift, squat or bench press. If you are not looking to take part in any body composition competition, you don’t have to go on mad diets. 

You can do both if that’s what you want but don’t let someone tell you that there is a one way for you to train or to eat. Trainer who says that all their clients have to squat, bench and deadlift because “it the best way”, is putting you into a training mold that they have created instead of molding the training for you.

If a trainer gives a general cookie cutter diet to all their clients they are putting you into a mold that they’ve created instead of molding the diet change around your goals, values and lifestyle. It might work brilliantly for person A while at the same time be catastrophic for person B. It might make the B feel like a failure and completely de-motivate them.

That, my friend, is ignorance at it’s finest.

I agree that everyone should know how to squat, hinge and push but it can be achieved in more ways than just by doing barbell lifts. Not everyone has to put a barbell on their back or deadlift from the floor, nor is it the best way to go about training for everyone. I won’t get anyone even smelling the bench press until they can do 10 solid push ups. Most of the time we won’t go there even after that, unless that’s what the client wants to do.

Every trainer and their mum wants to specialize in powerlifts, Olympic lifts and get certified in training the athletic population. They come out of the certification and start fitting averages joes and janes into their periodized powerlifting routines, calculating macro and micro cycles and testing 1 repetition maxes. Because that’s what the rugby teams do.

Last time I checked none of my clients need to get strong for rugby.

Every trainer wants to train the athletes because it’s cool. They want to train the elite. Along the way they forgot that most of us don’t train the athletic population. Most of us train office workers like yourself. With stressful jobs and 8 hours of sitting a day, mums and dads, people with about ten things on their list of priorities that override training or calculating protein and carbohydrate consumption. What you want is just to come in and feel good and see some progress.

For you, Jane or Joe (and I include myself in here as well since I am not competing in anything, except for being generally awesome), the best way to get to your general health goal is to do so with patience. You have to find movements that are the right for you. Most importantly you have to do so with movements that are safe for you. Your biggest goal might be to have training consistency over a long period of time. Just showing up and getting moving is important.

That all being set, if the thought of building a big squat is what gets you into a consistent training routine, by all means go for it.

Keep in mind is that eventually as you get closer to your capacity you will start seeing diminishing return. Meaning that you will have to put in a lot of work while seeing very little progress. When you are working closer to your capacity your risk of injury will go up. And if you are not planning to compete I don’t see the benefit of this. You are risking your health for the ego, for some number that in the end means nothing. Well, you can tell the tale of it in the pub but that’s about it.

So when you are training for general health you can be more flexible with how you structure your training. Maybe one month you focus on perfecting the Turkish get-up. Then the next month you put your focus on bodyweight training and the following month you actually want practice your squat before moving to something completely different again.

That’s all cool because your goal is general health and fitness. As long as you are generally getting better I don’t care what you want to do, as long as you go about it safely. Risking an injury for a overall health goal is madness. Once you are injured you are not really healthy overall, are you?

In summary, go about getting to your goals as safely as possible and don’t let anybody fit you into a mold that was not created for you. By focusing on compound, multi-joint movements you can realize your long-term health goals without ever touching a barbell if you don’t want to. You can realize your long-term body composition goal without ever counting calories or going on a strict diet.

As much as I like to promote resistance training for health benefits beyond the looks, the best way to improve your health is to choose an activity that you can do with consistency over time. For some it might mean lifting weights and for others it might be mountain biking. As long as you stick to it and do it safely it doesn’t matter. And if you want to alternate by shifting from mountain biking to weights and on to badminton it’s all good. Do what you enjoy. As long as it improves your health and fitness in general.